EBies, Energy

Honoring Heroes in Existing Buildings at the 2013 EBie Awards

No Comments Posted on 21 June 2013 by Tiffany Broyles Yost

Urban Green rolled out the green carpet for the 2nd Annual EBie Awards Wednesday night to an excited buzz of anticipation in the packed house at Times Square’s Hard Rock Café Theatre. Award presenters from the real estate industry competed for glamor with Rock of Ages cast members, but the real winners were the finalists.

Ken Fais
Chief Engineer, Vornado Realty Trust

The highlight of the night was easily the acceptance speech by “The All-Rounder” Winner Ken Fais, Vornado Realty Trust’s Chief Engineer at 1740 Broadway in NYC. The audience was moved by the obvious emotion in Ken’s voice as he thanked his team for their incredible accomplishments in improved energy performance and reduced water use, including an ENERGY STAR rating above 90! It’s safe to say this was the first time he’d received a national award for his work on a stage in front of a cheering crowd of hundreds. Watching Ken, the whole purpose of the EBie Awards was brought into clear focus. When operations teams work hard to make significant environmental improvements in existing buildings, their work usually goes unheralded. Through the EBies, these heroes are getting their long-overdue recognition at last.

Between bites of food and gulps of this year’s EBies signature cocktail, a bright green mojito, we overheard potential entrants for the 3rd Annual EBies already hatching their plans. Congratulations to all the EBie winners and finalists who were honored last night and let the competition begin for 2014!

EBies, Energy, LEED

All Together Now: A New EBie Award

No Comments Posted on 16 January 2013 by Cecil Scheib

Now in its second year, the EBie Awards from Urban Green Council, USGBC New York, are a nationwide juried competition for people working in Existing Buildings who have made great strides in improving environmental performance but whose accomplishments may otherwise go unheralded. Like the Oscars, there are multiple awards – but instead of Best Actor (or Best Key Grip) we have categories like Shine A Light On Me for the best lighting retrofit, and The Reformed Drinker for water savings. It’s sustainability in buildings, but sexy, with a glitzy awards ceremony (held at the Hard Rock Cafe Theatre in Times Square) for finalists and winners.

This year, we have added a new award for those people who work in multiple buildings: All Together Now, which recognizes the most improved portfolio across multiple sustainability categories, including water, waste management, stormwater, materials use, indoor environmental quality, and tenant engagement. The award is similar to the The All-Rounder, which is for a single building, but is designed for entrants who own, operate, or manage a group of buildings and improve their combined environmental performance. We expect that some of the biggest real improvements (not per square foot, but total water or energy savings) will come from portfolios, simply due to their size.

Working across a portfolio doesn’t mean you do different things, but it does change how you go about it. On the positive side, there’s lots of opportunity for lessons learned as conservation measures are repeated over and over (and over and over). Economies of scale come into play: once,when buying occupancy sensors for a campus-wide renovation, I found the price dropped by more than half when ordering 1,000 sensors instead of 100. Repetition can improve efficiency as project managers, purchasing agents, suppliers, and contractors develop good habits, and once-innovative processes become routine. And it’s much easier to get project approval from the right people – building occupants and top management – with a proven track record of success within the same portfolio.

Of course, it’s not always easy “scaling up.”  Despite the benefits of experience, it can seem like every situation is unique in its own way. It can be very difficult to give individual projects the attention they deserve when trying to be effective across 10, 100, or even 500 buildings. And going big too fast can have real costs if inventory is purchased and then plans change or deadlines are missed. Finally, the sheer effort required to create change in multiple buildings at once can be daunting right from the outset.

That’s why we created the EBies All Together Now portfolio award – to recognize the special opportunities and challenges that come from managing a portfolio. We’re looking forward to honoring the people making it happen across a group of buildings. If that’s you, go to ebies.org to find more details about how to apply and the definition of award categories and portfolios. The deadline for submissions is February 26, and we’ll be honoring finalists and the winners in New York City on June 19, 2013. See you there!


Stand up and cheer, the EBies are here!

No Comments Posted on 29 June 2012 by Cecil Scheib

On Thursday, June 28, the first annual EBie Awards were held at the Hard Rock Café in Times Square. The EBies are a nationwide, juried competition that celebrates increased sustainability in existing buildings (thus, EBies) and the people behind these improvements. Close to 70 competitors submitted entries, from every region of the country, and the finalists gathered in New York City to down “EBie Elixirs” and wait breathlessly to hear the winners announced (between banter among local and national green building luminaries).

The stated point of the competition is to recognize unsung heroes – but let me tell you, after last night, those heroes have been sung! As a building geek (and speaking for all the other building geeks in the room), it was heartwarming to hear the applause and cheers for all the people working their chillers off to reduce energy and water use in existing buildings. While the “sexy” focus is often on the construction of fancy new structures, in order to reduce the overall impact of our built environment we must also greatly improve our existing buildings.

And while all the hardworking people doing this will tell you they don’t care, I think the truth is that people are motivated by the recognition of their peers (and let’s face it – the chance to have a Broadway star sing to you, as Emily Padgett did). It also helps the recognition of the profession overall to have an Oscar-like production celebrating existing building efforts.

Finalists were from all walks of building management life, including owners, engineers (yes, there were many engineer jokes at the EBies), and in one case, the principal of Rosa Parks Elementary School (Lexington, KY), Leslie Thomas. Leslie stole the show when she described how her team involved the kids in her school in the process of creating energy retrofits – and the kids came up with great ideas, helping the team walk away with a Reformed Gas Guzzler EBie.

In the end, we’re all winners, since reducing energy and water use helps all of us. Ultimately, victory will be defined by all buildings performing like EBie winners. But for now, the green carpet, the Times Square marquee, the fancy drinks, the wild applause, and all the glitz surrounding the EBies should encourage folks to dream how they might be up on stage themselves next year.


The Making of an EBie

No Comments Posted on 27 June 2012 by Chris Anjesky

When the EBie Awards™ moved from conception to reality almost a year ago, we felt strongly that the program had to be exceptional on many fronts—the award criteria, the jury, and the winner’s trophy, to name a few.

Retrofit projects aren’t necessarily glamorous, but they’re incredibly important and impactful. We needed an award with these same qualities—and a dash of sophistication.

We started from a good place, when Fiona Cousins of Arup fleshed out the EBie award categories and came up with a great name. Now we had to pull it all together with branding that was celebratory but still weighty.

We sought advice from some great design professionals, but chose Mark Pernice of Matic to do the EBie logo, website, and award. Said Mark:

“We wanted something beautiful in its simplicity, something familiar but progressive, of the earth but ethereal, organic in material but not in aesthetic. The cube represents many of this with significant meaning to the human psyche.

The award design is about how different people approach similar challenges with totally different solutions. The award cubes have the exact same shape and construction, but positioned differently they appear distinct from each other.

We looked to Bioresin for its affordability, soft smoky aesthetic, and unique material.  Each year we can change the color to create a series—furthering the message of sustainable design for years to come.”

Once we had a working design (see 3D rendering below), we had to some investigative work on the suggested material, Bioresin. We’d already ruled out glass due to its significantly higher cost for making a custom award.

Urban Green Board Member and SOM Technical Director Nick Holt ran it by SOM’s Specifications Team. The verdict?

“As an improvement to the resin family, Bioresin appears to be a very good step forward—reduced, though not eliminated toxicity, rapidly renewable, biodegradable–which is a story that has worth.”

Here at Urban Green, we often talk about how sustainability isn’t about holding out for the best solution, but demanding increasingly better ones. We think Bioresin fits the bill.

More important, we hope it inspires you to win an EBie.

EBies, GPRO, People

Thank You, Spring Interns!

No Comments Posted on 11 April 2012 by Erin Johnson

Urban Green Council relies on our interns to help coordinate our monthly educational programs and special events, assist with research and  fundraising, and work on developing our national certificate program GPRO. The Summer 2012 Internship season is upon us, and we wanted to take this opportunity to introduce you to our spring interns and thank them for their incredible work over the past several months.

[EBies Intern] A California native, studying Sustainability Management as a Graduate Student at Columbia University.
I loved working this semester as the EBies Intern for this new and exciting competition!  I learned a lot about how sustainability initiatives can be implemented into existing buildings in order to improve our global carbon footprint.  One of the greatest perks of being an intern is being able to go to all the events and presentations by some of NYCs most forward thinking revolutionaries in the sustainable building sphere.  When I graduate from Columbia in December, I hope to find a job as a Sustainability Consultant either here in NY, or back home in San Francisco.

[Research Intern] Recent graduate from Tufts University with a Bachelors of Science in Chemical Engineering.
As an intern at Urban Green Council, I’ve had the chance to learn about all of the amazing strides that New York City leaders have taken to create a sustainable urban environment. There have been so many opportunities to attend courses and events, with great speakers at the forefronts of their fields. My favorite part about working here has been all of the laughs, advice, and life-talks with the other interns and the rest of my coworkers. After this internship, I hope pursue a career in sustainable development, chemical engineering, or some fusion of the two!

[Programs Intern] B.A. Political Science from Skidmore College, focus on environmental studies and sustainable development.
As someone who is passionate about green buildings and sustainable development, my favorite aspect of this internship has been the networking opportunities. I have met so many wonderful people in a variety of fields. I have also enjoyed working with my great co-workers over the course of my time here.

With the internship winding down, I am shipping off to Vietnam for four months where I plan to teach English and travel. Upon my return, I hope to find full-time employment in the sustainability field!

[GPRO Intern]
A recent graduate of Princeton University with a degree in architecture and certificate in urban studies.
I’ve met and worked with a lot of amazing people during my time at Urban Green Council. This is what I value the most, as many of the issues we’re confronting could not be tackled without the passion and dedication of those involved. Among my favorite moments were interacting with industry professionals at our GPRO courses and attending many of Urban Green’s programs—both of which left me constantly thinking of the interactions between environment and design, especially in the context of the city. I’m very excited about all of the inspiring discussions I’ve had here and hope to continue developing these ideas in graduate school, where I’ll be pursuing a Master’s in Architecture.

[GPRO Intern] A California native and UCLA graduate with a BS in environmental science and environmental engineering.
I’ve had a great experience interning at Urban Green Council these past few months. I’ve learned a lot about green building practices from working on the GPRO Fundamentals and Electrical Systems curriculums. The best part of the internship was attending the Urban Green Council events (and eating the delicious food at those events!) with my coworkers. While I don’t know where my next move will take me, I know I’ll welcome any opportunities to show my commitment to a more sustainable future.

Construction, EBies, Energy

The True Story of the EBies

No Comments Posted on 21 March 2012 by Laurie Kerr

Several years ago, a group of us Urban Greeners were chatting about how to scale up energy efficiency in existing buildings – as we so often do for fun.  Someone sighed and said for the umpteenth time, “The problem is, correcting operating schedules and insulating steam pipes just isn’t as sexy as installing solar panels or bamboo flooring…” At which point I thought, “Sexiness is in the eye of the beholder isn’t it?  Fashions change.  We need to make efficiency and existing buildings sexy, even glamorous!”  And with that, the idea for the EBies was born.

Clearly we had a problem.  The things that really work were considered tedious and drab, while flashier, expensive strategies with minimal impact were getting all of the attention.  We needed to invert the value system, and make the inspired building operator, the clever retro-commissioner, and the brilliant auditor visible and glamorous.  An awards program made sense, but in those pre-EBie days, the accolades tended to be given to architects who had designed dazzling new green buildings.  The engineers, landscape architects, and lighting designers who were part of the design team were mentioned in a hurried mumble as the architects waltzed away with the award – despite the fact that most successful projects are really collaborations.   And existing buildings weren’t even on the radar.

A great example of an industry that has tackled this issue is the motion picture business.  The Academy Awards don’t just reward the actors and actresses with an Oscar; they recognize the best cinematography, the best sound mixing, the best makeup, and a host of other specialties that are required to make a great movie.  Over the decades, the Oscars have honored and built up depth in all of the supporting professions, which has undoubtedly contributed to the strength of the American movie industry over the 80-some years since the awards were introduced.

The Oscars have been so successful, in fact, that they have spawned the Grammys, the Tonys, the Emmys, and even the Obies – the awards for Off-Broadway shows.  Now it’s time for the EBies, Urban Green Council’s awards for the best work on Existing Buildings.  Like the Oscars, the EBies will recognize the range of expertise required to make a high performance existing building.  There’s a category that recognizes the best building operator, another that recognizes the building owner that initiated and funded the most low-energy renovation, and others that reward specific categories of building improvements, like best lighting retrofit and best water improvement strategy. So, we promise you…the EBie will be a green building award that is inclusive and recognizes all the right people.  And they will have a glamour all their own!

© 2012 Urban Green Blog.